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Author Topic: WV Logging with mule -What a day (Warning long post with all the gory details)  (Read 3587 times)

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Online WV Sawmiller

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24 May 2016 (Tuesday)
   Its 0845 and the dogs are barking. I check out the kitchen window and I see Ernie pulling into the lot with his horse trailer. I go out and greet him as he unloads Kate and Sadie his 13 and 15 y/o Belgian mare mules.  While Ernie decks out the mules with collars, hames,  harness and hooks up various chains and singletrees, Johnny, my 70 something busybody (in a good way) neighbor stops to observe and talk about his mule working days. Becky comes out and starts taking pictures including getting some with my sawmill in the foreground.
   Once connected Becky jumps on her ATV and heads up the hill to get pictures of us coming up the steep hill in the pasture through the stand of 90 y/o Norwegian spruce trees. Ernie is nearly running behind the mules and quickly realize how out of shape I am for this kind of work.
   At the top of the pasture we follow the ATV road to the steep draw in the center of our property, through the aluminum gate and up into the woods a couple hundred yards to where I had previously cut and bucked two large tulip poplar trees into 8, 12 and 16 logs for a client order. The tops up to 10-12 in diameter were also cut into 8-25 logs for future cutting and bucking.
   We have had a lot of rain over the past few weeks and the trail is very slippery.  Ernie is concerned about the slippery trail which also includes some large flat rocks as it is a major runoff area.  Ernie selects an 18 log about 16 in diameter at the top end, drives his grabs consisting of two 6 long hooks connected by about 14 of heavy chain/loops. While he does this Kate and Sadie stand obediently waiting for the next command. Ernie grabs their reins/lead and yells Haw and they turn left and walk parallel to the log. Next Ernie halts them and tells them to back up. They do and he hooks a big hook on a drawbar into the grab chain and yells Giddyup and away they go down the trail. Ernie has to stop them several times while he shifts from the left to the right side to avoid trees and rock piles in his way.
   They continue a couple hundred yards, out the gate, left and down a dip and up the trail to a big bench or flat area in the pasture. It is so steep and so slick the mules have trouble getting traction and pulling the heavy log. Sadie goes to her knees a couple of times. Ernie has the back them up and lunge forward several times to get enough weight to reach the level area. The mules head forward but get too close to the edge and the log rolls over the edge. It is too steep to retrieve so Ernie and I discuss a new path straight down the hill and through the yard instead of through the spruce patch. Ernie swaps log ends with the grabs and heads down the hill towards our house.
   About halfway down the pasture the grade changes and the log rolls sideways. Ernie turns the mules and they control and stop the roll and continue forward repeating this rolling a couple more times before they get into the yard. In the drive the gravel prevents the mules from pulling so I hook my Dodge P/U to the log and pull it down the access road to the pasture. Once in the pasture I lose traction and the mules take over again and move the log into place above where I will place my saw when we are done.
   Throughout the morning Ernie, Kate and Sadie continue pulling logs down the slope. The smaller logs, including one 17 long maple log from a broken topped tree, Ernie pulls up on the bench in the pasture for me to retrieve later with my ATV and log arch. The next big log we leave in my drive and decide to pull them there and Ill get a neighbor with a tractor to finish pulling them. The rest of the bigger logs (130 to 355 bf estimates) Ernie stages by a big walnut halfway down the pasture.
   I am truly impressed with Ernie and his mules.  Ernie goes up the hill and a near run every trip while I generally ride the ATV.  Once in the woods he halts the mules who stand while he leaves them unattended and untied to go drive in the grabs. Next Ernie directs the mules to the log and backs them up to get enough slack to hook the central hook on the drawbar into the grab chain. This entails bending over directly behind the mules and working with the equipment. The mules never move or make any attempt to kick or such. Without such a well trained team working in these conditions would have been impossible. At one point the mules pull and 12 log and we find I didnt saw it free and they are actually pulling a 16 and the 12 log. We stop them and I finish separating the logs with my chainsaw.
   At 1300 we take a break, put the mules in my horse/mule stalls and I feed them the last gallon or so of my cracked corn. As we do this Mark, another busybody neighbor and a friend to Johnny pulls up and come to watch and talk. Mark is a repeat customer and old muleskinner and part time logger himself so he is impressed with the size and temperament of Kate and Sadie.
   We go in to eat lunch, venison roast that has been cooking in a big oval cast iron roaster all morning with mushroom soup base and sweet and white taters, onion, and carrots with fresh cole slaw and whole kernel corn. Mark declines to come eat with us and leaves.
   After a good lunch we resume our log hauling. Ernie has been brainstorming and comes up with a plan to connect a small long log to our saw logs with chains to keep them from rolling. We try the first one on a big 8 butt log which are the worst to roll. Down the hill Ernie, Kate and Sadie go. This works like a charm!  When we reach the drive, since it has dried out throughout the morning, I hook my truck to the logs and haul them to the sawing site in the pasture. I drive up on the side slope above the log pile, back up for slack, remove the short chain and grabs, then roll the log down to the pile and drive back out. I suspect I exceeded the Dodge recommended side angle in my return. Meanwhile Ernie is heading back to the log landing with the mules. I throw the grabs, chain and hammer into the back of Beckys ATV (Mine is sick and in the shop) and help his hook up for the next pull.
   Mark returns and comes out to watch. He is very impressed by Ernies outrigger solution to pulling logs on our steep WV side slopes. As he sits on the log pile and Ernie takes a big log down the hill Mark tells me This guy really knows what he is doing! Coming from Mark, that is a high compliment.
   We make one last trek to the woods and pull out the last four small logs which Ernie stages on the bench. I see we have seven small logs there for future needs. I load all of the tools, cooler, saw, oil, gas, etc. into the ATV and close the gate as I come out.
   The last log is a big 16 log. Ernie brings it to the gate in the cross fence. On the other side is a runoff from the spring uphill and has been hard going for Kate and Sadie. By this time they dont have the energy to pull this last monster through the rough going. I try hooking several long cables and a snatch block from the log to my truck down in the drive and pull it about 4 till I hit the muck and break a cable. We leave it for another day.
   I pull the last log out of the drive to the pile and I see we have 10 large logs from 8 to 16 long. There is plenty there to complete my order with stock logs and side lumber left over. I bring Ernies gear to his truck while he unhooks the mules gear and puts them in the trailer. Ernie had asked about some lumber to fix a stall for a new Haflinger mare he just bought so I go get several pieces of ash 1X6, 2X6 and 2X8 as part of his tip.
   It is now nearly 1900 and except for lunch we have been pulling logs for a good nine hours.  Becky has taken several hundred pictures of the process. We thank and settle up with Ernie and I assure him I will be calling him in the future and referring him to other friends and customers. Ernie says these are the biggest and most logs he has pulled and next time to cut them shorter!  I agree as the long ones have been a bear to pull.
    I often get people tell me theyd like some logs sawed into lumber but they cant get their trees out of their woods.  This may be a perfect solution with Ernie cutting and hauling the logs, me sawing lumber and the customer getting to use their own homegrown lumber. I have another customer who does custom furniture making so we can even take the process to the next level all with homegrown WV lumber.


  Ernie is hooking up his mule while my neighbor stops to watch and talk. Mill in the foreground.
 

 
Average size log out of the wood and into the pasture.

 
Larger log going down the hill.
 

 
Pure genius! Log will slide on the steep slope but will not roll with the outrigger attached.
 

 
Side view with outrigger log.
 

 
Got this down pat - Ernie pulls the outrigger beside the staged log, We roll the log over onto the chains and Ernie hooks up the rigging with a special twist to prevent the chains from coming loose during transport.
 

 
Ten big logs ready to be sawed at the end of the day. Total of about 3,000 bf pulled today including a few that are still on the hill for future sawing.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline bucknwfl

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That is pretty cool mr green. I have heard of this and they still do this for high value logs in Kentucky especially walnut in old stands I have never seen it


Thanks for the pictures

Buck
If it was easy everybody would be doing it

Offline tnaz

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Thanks for sharing.  I would like to see this style of logging in person.  Very good.

Terry

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Thanks for sharing.  I would like to see this style of logging in person.  Very good.

Terry
   It was a treat and an experience I will never forget.

   it was much more involved than I thought it would be with equipment that is hard to find or make. I doubt I could even get the harnesses connected and cross connected let alone know how to train an animal like Kate and Sadie. One big log was in a ditch and Ernie wrapped a long chain around it and the mules simply parbuckled it out so they could roll it on to level ground then pull it down the hill. That took lots of experience and good analytical skills.

    Ernie brought 3 sets of grabs with him. By the end of the day as he took one log I would drive the grabs into the next log so it was ready for him. Ernie would examine each log and determine the best path to drag it out in advance. Thinking of the outrigger took a lot of common sense to solve the problem of rolling logs - which are very dangerous to the handler, team and anyone in the area.

    It is also danged hard work!
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Upper

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Very cool,beautiful looking team
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Offline Savannahdan

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From your description and the photos it make one feel as if they are there.  Thank you for sharing the experience.
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Online Magicman

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Thanks for sharing Ernie, Kate and Sadie with us.   8)
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Offline Percy

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Nice!!! WE have had a few horse loggers around here. An awesomw way to get logs for a small mill......when the work is done, stickem in the pasture to fuel up....  ;D
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Offline dboyt

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Thanks for the posting & photos!  Seems like a log arch would come in handy, too.  Around here, even the Amish use Diesel-powered skidders in the woods, then drive a horse & buggy home after work.
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Offline sealark37

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Man, those ears are impressive!   Regards, Clark

Offline ljohnsaw

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Thanks for sharing.  Those mules are huge! :o
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Online WV Sawmiller

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Thanks for the posting & photos!  Seems like a log arch would come in handy, too.  Around here, even the Amish use Diesel-powered skidders in the woods, then drive a horse & buggy home after work.

   Ernie had one. He calls it his log cart but I am sure is what we call an arch. Our original plan was to pull straight down through the spruce patch but it was too wet and Kate and Sadie could not get the big logs up the slope on the bench so we revised for a straighter pull down through the yard. (Did I mention the logs digging in the yard exposed my night light feeder cable which I had to rebury this morning.) When we had our side slope problems he staged the logs halfway down the pasture and was going to come back today with his "cart" to finish then he thought about the outrigger and that worked so well he did not have to return.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Dad2FourWI

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Wow! What a day!! Thanks for sharing the adventure - I brought the wife and kids over to read it with me!!

We were at an Amish auction about a month ago and found a modified LP tank trailer - the big ones with the tires that can haul the large tanks on the road. They replaced the tires for steel wheels and added in a winch and battery.... it was neat to examine but very well used and pretty rusted through in places... that one did NOT come home with us!  :D

That outrigger solution is neat but I can imagine that the extra weight of the outrigger log makes more work for the team.

Very neat solution for some difficult terrain!

Thanks,
-Dad2FourWI
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Offline Roxie

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Sure did enjoy hearing about your day. and seeing the pictures!  I just love mules!   :)
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Offline Cazzhrdwd

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I'm impressed with what they can pull.
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Online WV Sawmiller

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That outrigger solution is neat but I can imagine that the extra weight of the outrigger log makes more work for the team.

Very neat solution for some difficult terrain!

Thanks,
-Dad2FourWI

D2FourWI,

    Actually the outrigger was pretty small and an insignificant weight to the mules. It seems to work better if longer than the log but I'd bet a 4"-5" sapling would have done pretty much the same thing. It basically creates a flat surface that previously was round.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Dad2FourWI

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OK, I was thinking it was more substantial.... amazing how strong those animals are!

My wife and daughter have been begging for horses and slowly we have been clearing some land for paddocks and for hay... my big fear is that we might have them cleared before I die!  :D :D :D

This farm was farmed entirely by horses until around the 1940's... who knows, maybe it will be again some day...  ;D

-Dad2FourWI
LT-40, LT-10, Bobcat T750 CTL, Ford 1910 tractor, tree farmer

Offline Czech_Made

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Thanks for sharing, nice pictures. 

I seen it few times in Czech and Slovakia mountains.  It is definitely very gentle way to get logs out of the woods - unlike most of the mechanization they use.

Offline larrydown60

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Thanks for sharing  loved the adventure and pictures

Offline grouch

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Yep. Long post. I hit page down a couple times scrolling through some of that text thinking, "Oh, man, I hope he posted at least one photo!" then hit home and dove in. I could see those mules on those hillsides long before I got to the pictures. Shoot, I could hear the doubletree clinking and the harness slapping when they shook their heads! Well done! Thanks for taking us along.

Was dreading reading words to the effect that Kate or Sadie got hurt by one of the rolling logs. Glad all is well!

Mo' pics coming?
Find something to do that interests you.


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